The God of Jesus was the God of the Old Testament, the same God that his hearers had always been worshipping.
For most of the last two thousand years, it would not have been necessary to say so.
It was central to the Church’s understanding of the Bible, that the relation between God and his people is a continuous history, beginning with
Abraham and coming to a climax with Jesus Christ.
One and the same God, from Genesis to Revelation.
This continuity seems to be coming under question again.
And yet it can be demonstrated from the words of the New Testament, including the words of Jesus himself.
I’ve done this previously from the four gospels and from Acts, but everything we find in the epistle to the Hebrews leads to the same conclusion.
What is the opening statement of this epistle?
“God spoke to our fathers through the prophets” (ch1 v1).
Immediately, then, the writer does two very important things.
He identifies the words
of the Old Testament God as the words of his own God; “He spoke through the prophets”.
And he identifies the people
of the Old Testament God as the people of his own God; “He spoke to our fathers”.
In fact the whole of the argument of this letter rests on those two points. The writer cannot make his case without them.
Before he goes much further, he also begins to identify the deeds
of the Old Testament God as the deeds of his own God; “He created the
These points can be followed through the rest of the letter.
The argument of the first two chapters is based on quoting the statements of the Psalms as evidence for the dignity and authority of the Son.
When the writer says “The message declared by angels was valid and every transgression and or disobedience received a just retribution”(ch2 v2),
he is endorsing the Law of Moses as a law established by his own God.
When he is explaining why the Son needed to share in our humanity, he sums up his case in the words “It is not with angels that he is concerned, but
with the descendants of Abraham” (ch2 v16), even though his line of argument might have led more naturally to “descendants of Adam”.
He describes Moses as a faithful steward in “God’s house”, and claims for Christ the authority of a son and heir over the same
The argument about the “sabbath rest” (ch3) is based on quoting Psalm 95 as the voice of the Holy Spirit. He comes to the conclusion that the
sabbath rest promised in the psalm “remains for the people of God” (ch4 v9). In other words, the Israelites who first heard the psalm, and his own
Christian readers, are both[
, in their own times, participant members of God’s people; that is the one people belonging to the one God.
When he begins to discuss the office of High Priest, he declares that this priest is “called by God”, and “appointed to act on behalf of men in
relation to God” (ch5 vv1-4). Then he quotes Psalm 110 as announcing the appointment of Christ to the same office. Thus he makes no distinction
between the God who makes these Old Testament appointments and his own God.
Again, he cites the promise made to Abraham (ch6 v13) as a promise made by his own God, which he and his readers can claim for themselves.
In the seventh chapter, the writer dwells on the story of the old testament figure Melchizedek.
This figure is presented as representing Christ. His name and title identify him with “righteousness” and “peace”. The writer notices that he
is “like the Son of God” in having no discernible beginning or end, so that he “continues for ever”.
He confirms the connection by applying to Jesus the words of the Psalm;
“Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek” (ch7 v17).
That, in itself, establishes a continuity between the two testaments.
Melchizedek received the submission of Abraham, by accepting the tithe from him.
By implication, he also received the submission of Levi, who was “in the loins of Abraham”.
The symbolic significance of this event is that the entire priestly system of the Old Testament subordinates itself to the priesthood of Christ.
In the next chapter, the writer quotes Jeremiah’s prophecy about a new covenant (ch8 vv8-12), claiming it as a promise made by his own God, and
claiming it as fulfilled in the “better covenant” provided through Christ.
The relationship between the two covenants is that the old covenant foreshadows the new.
Thus the sanctuary established by Moses was erected, on God’s instructions, as a copy
of the heavenly sanctuary into which Christ would enter
Similarly the sacrifices carried out in that sanctuary were symbolic of the death which Christ would experience (ch9).
In confirmation of this, the same sacrifice was also foreshadowed in the words of Psalm 40, “I have come to do thy will, O God” (ch10 v5).
Christ is the reality of God’s work, and the old priests were the imperfect copies which God provided for teaching purposes.
This also settles, by implication, the relative status of the two testaments.
The Old Testament system is a part, but a subordinate part, of the work of God which is made more complete and perfected in Christ.
For this reason, the writer is urging his readers not to abandon their grasp on what Christ is offering and fall back into the provisional and
superseded system inherited from their fathers.
The climax of his argument is the rollcall of faith in ch11.
He lists the major figures of the Old Testament who were indomitable in their faith, and encourages his readers to follow their example.
But the key point here is that the faith of everyone named in this chapter was invested in the God of the Old Testament.
Yet the writer makes no distinction between the God who received their faith and obedience and his own God. He does not question their identity, but
takes it for granted.
These people did not receive what they were promised, but only because the one God was postponing the inheritance until it could be shared by the
followers of Christ;
“…since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (ch11 vv39-40).
For the sake of completeness, we might also notice the Old Testament quotations of the last couple of chapters.
It is “the Lord” who gives discipline (ch12 vv5-6) or provides help (ch13 v6), and these are taken to be statements about the Christian God.
And the same Christian God will be fulfilling the promise he made in the words of Haggai;
“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven” (ch12 v26).
In short, the argument of this letter rests so heavily on the continuity of God’s activity in the two testaments that it is not rationally possible
to separate them out as the work of two different gods.
The Bible is understood as the single continuous history of the relation between the one God and his people.
edit on 7-4-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)